PATC Aids Clarke County’s Efforts to Improve Parking at
Raven Rocks AT Access
by Martha Reynolds
Plan your trip to the Raven Rocks Appalachian Trail access today! Increasing interest in a popular 5.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail beginning at the Raven Rocks trailhead inspired the Clarke County Board of Supervisors to make improvements to the small parking lot that often overflowed with the cars of day hikers. In spite of well-marked restrictions, many hikers chose to park along the roadside, forcing law enforcement to order these vehicles towed. Recognizing this safety concern, the Board took action to enlarge the lot and revise the parking ordinance in Clarke County Code to allow officials the discretion to issue citations for illegally parked vehicles, rather than requiring that the cars be towed. Clarke County reopened the expanded lot on May 8, after nearly six months of collaborative efforts with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (VDOT) and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).
In 2017, VDOT determined that the existing area could be redesigned to accommodate more than 30 vehicles, but was unable to provide resources to finance the project. By November, the Clarke County Board approved funding for the first stage of the venture, which involved clearing the lot. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, which maintains 22 miles of trail in Clarke County, was involved in identifying the boundaries for the new lot. Additional funding, authorized in early spring, allowed the County to grade and gravel the area. Ultimately, the enlarged lot should prevent the need for overflow parking at the large commuter lot on Virginia Route 7. VDOT’s enhanced signage, delineating prohibited parking areas, encourages adherence to the parking ordinance by clarifying where hikers can leave vehicles.
These enhancements to the Raven Rocks parking area will allow greater enjoyment of this AT section by providing ample space for hikers to park safely and legally. As an ATC-recognized Appalachian Trail Community, Clarke County offers four AT access points, including the Raven Rocks trailhead. The Board’s support for this project speak to the County’s commitment to the Appalachian Trail and the continued enjoyment of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Affectionately described as the “roller coaster,” the section hike at Raven Rocks is a moderate excursion, defined by three rocky and strenuous ascents. Though challenging, hikers will find phenomenal views at overlooks along the trail.
"Bamadog" aka Marty Dockins, 61, admires the new trailhead parking on his northbound AT hike.
Photos courtesy of Clarke County.